Every Yankee fan remembers where they were when Aaron Boone took Tim Wakefield deep to clinch the 2003 American League pennant. Try asking every Yankee fan where they were when the Boston Red Sox captured back the momentum the following season. I am not talking about a game in the 2004 American League Championship Series, either.
It was a Saturday afternoon in July. I was at my friend's college graduation party. I knew the Yanks were in Fenway that day. As much as I wanted to be inside watching the game the weather was much too nice. Besides, why bother? A-Rod hit an eventual game-winning RBI single the night before in the top of the ninth off Keith Foulke. That was when us Yankee fans had every bragging right over the BoSox. The latest one was we traded for A-Rod, the guy they could not get. History was repeating itself. Or was it?
You didn't have to be old enough to know about Babe Ruth, Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, or any other tale about Boston misery. Little did I know that the baseball universe was starting to throw a nasty changeup.
I was relaxing when some kid came running outside yelling: "A-Rod is in a fight!" Say no more. The lawnchairs flew and everybody was inside within seconds. He wasn't lying. Bronson Arroyo went up and way in on A-Rod. Next thing you knew Jason Varitek punched A-Rod with his catcher's mitt still on. It was a moment I knew would never be forgotten.
The game went on in the Yanks' favor and was 10-8 going into the bottom of the ninth. At this point I was on my way home from the party. I pulled into see my Dad's softball game. But as I parked the car Kevin Millar hit an RBI single scoring Nomar Garciaparra. Suddenly it was 10-9 with one out, one man on, and Mariano Rivera was on the mound. I was thinking: "you have GOT to be kidding me!"
Far and away, Rivera is the greatest closer of all-time. Even he had his blown saves though. Sometimes you could see the worse ones coming. They usually played out like a totally random series of unexpected events. Like a bad script. His most memorable included the '97 Divisional Series against Cleveland and the '01 World Series against Arizona.
Up came pesky hitting Bill Mueller. The count was three balls and one strike. The next pitch came and John Sterling started saying the magic words: "...that ball is high, it is far, it is..." From that day on the curse was fading. The dog days of being a Red Sox fan were ending.
Then came October. Somehow in the ALCS the Yanks went up three games to none over the BoSox. But even then I kept thinking something had to give. When Rivera walked Millar in game four, I started peeling off a commemorative 1903-2003 patch on my fitted hat I got a year before. In 2003, maybe the last bad year in Boston history. When Johnny Damon hit the grand slam in game seven the patch was gone. I still wear the hat with a glue stain.
Like Hans said in the original Mighty Ducks: "It's important to remember the past."